Financial Advice for Men During a Divorce

Financial Advice for Men During a Divorce

George Levett, Stirling Ackroyd Legal, International Law Firm 

The thought of splitting your assets during a divorce can seem very daunting. In addition to the natural stress that is associated with divorce and deciding child custody rights, the process can seem even more overwhelming. To keep you sane through this there are loads of great resources online to keep you organised and on top of things.

When looking at your financials…

There is a strong need for you to make a list of all your tangible and intangible assets. This essentially means that you should list all your keepsakes, loans, copyrights and collections. Knowing what’s at stake will help you make an informed decision. For example, you may have overlooked certain assets during your marriage and considered them to be of little value but making a list can help you identify them and their importance.

To help you make the best decision and decide how you want to go about splitting your marital assets, it’s important you speak to an experienced lawyer so that you know all your options and how best to protect yourself.

These simple steps should make it easier for you to think about your divorce with a clear and focused head.

The Family Home

The main thing you may be concerned with is deciding how to split the family home. Most likely, this is your most valuable asset so it will be of high priority to you both.

Speak to your partner. There was a time where you and your partner were civil and could reach a mutual decision. Don’t put off reaching out to your partner in order to decide what should happen next. Remember that arguments over the mortgage and who is entitled to the furniture are relatively normal, as long as you can come to an agreement over it.

If you find that you can’t reach a mutual decision, your next move is probably to speak to a lawyer.

How to split the home

Different countries have different ways of going about this. England is known as the best country for divorce law because assets are split 50-50. However, you might not think that this is fair and in other countries, it’s possible that you may be able to retain more than just half of your assets depending on factors such as your financial status, age and health in comparison to your ex-partner, which is known as equitable distribution.

Your lawyer will help you through the legal minefield and make sure your interests are put first. The stakes are high, especially when considering a valuable asset like a house, meaning it’s really important for you to choose the right lawyer.

Contacting a realtor can also help you assess the value of your home, as this allows both you and your ex-partner to make the best possible decision. Your options are quite open as you can sell your home, give it away and perhaps even claim it, depending on your particular situation.

Your Business

Did you know that in some countries, your ex-partner may be entitled to half your business? This doesn’t sound particularly appealing so it’s worth knowing how to protect yourself and keep calm if you stand to lose half your business. 

What to do with a family business

A family business can be difficult to separate, especially if it has been run by you and your ex-partner. Most likely, your ex will probably come after it. Your protection can be found through a good lawyer who can find ways for you to retain your business, or a larger share if that’s what you want.

Issues are likely to arise if you and your ex-partner haven’t explicitly outlined your roles. Even if you did agree on job titles, they will need to be explained during the divorce since your ex-partner may try to minimise the duties of your role.

  1. Co-run

If the relationship between you and your ex is still amiable, there is a chance that you would be able to retain your business and keep your wealth. You could try co-owning the business with your ex. If your relationship ended on good terms, you’re in a good position as you won’t have to go through the hassle of fighting your ex in court.

  1. Buy-out

You can opt to buy your partner’s share if you really want to keep the business to yourself, although you may have to be willing to give up properties or a large sum of cash in order to appease your partner’s demands. Having a good lawyer is necessary to ensure that you’re not being manipulated into giving up more than your ex-partner is actually entitled to.

  1. Sell

If you find that you’re put off your business or can’t see yourself working with your ex, then you could offer to sell your share for a price. You’ll be giving yourself a fresh start and a clean break from your ex-partner, which is great especially if you left the relationship on bad terms.

If you both decide to sell and move on to newer ventures, you should know that the amount of money made from the sale can be less than expected, since the value of your business can depend on trends in the market. With a good lawyer by your side, you can find out the optimum time for you and your ex-partner to sell the business in order to make the most money.

There is no doubt that divorce can lead to confusion, anger and stress. We know that when it comes to dividing your assets, the conversation with your ex can be very heated but your greatest advantage is through a good lawyer. Knowing your legal rights and researching what you are entitled to can minimize the financial impact on yourself and make divorce a smoother and more efficient journey towards a new start.

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Counseling Can Save Your Marriage

Counseling Can Save Your Marriage

When marriages are in trouble, often couples refuse to go to marriage counseling to save their marriage. Many factors affect this decision, including privacy, anger, contempt, distrust, confrontation, and a plethora of others. But, in all seriousness, counseling is a very valuable tool  that can help to save a marriage.

As with any relationship, clear, concise and effective communications is essential to a good working relationship. But, even though we often feel as if we are communicating effectively, little do we realize that may not be the case. Whenever we communicate, those listening are subconsciously filtering the information based on their life experiences. And some of those filters are baggage from previous relationships, good or bad. Those filters skew our thinking and our understanding of what is being said and the meanings behind them.

By using an objective third party, a marriage counselor, they may be able to help understand and correct hot button issues that are damaging the relationship.

The decision to seek counseling is a very intimate one, whether it be marriage or personal. Choosing the right counselor is key. It’s also important for both partners to understand that counseling is not an immediate solution. Marriage problems don’t appear suddenly, and they won’t be resolved without hard work in the emotional trenches. Results take time.

If your partner refuses to go to therapy, don’t make it another point of contention. Seek personal counseling for yourself, alone. Taking time to work on you and your baggage will have a positive effect in your own life, which may transfer to your marriage.

However, statistics do show that couples counseling is more effective than individual therapy.

According to statistics provided by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, 93 percent of patients surveyed said they had more effective tools for dealing with their problems after counseling.

I’ve seen the difference marriage counseling can make in the lives of close friends. I would recommend it to any couples who are struggling. It can be hard to delve into topics like money and sex in front of a third party, but the results are well-worth the discomfort.

My friends Sue and Johnny were convinced they were meant to be. They met after a series of failed relationships. Both had sworn off love completely. But when a mutual friend introduced them at a baseball game, they swore it was love at first site.

After hours of flirting and endless pints of Guinness, the pair decided to meet the next evening for their first official date. They spent the night hopping from dive bars to coffee shops, talking about past hurts and hopes for the future. The chemistry was undeniable. Sue went home with Johnny that night and never left.

Both of them will tell you that they felt like their proverbial soul mate ships had finally arrived.

“I was beginning to think there was nobody out there for me,” Johnny told me one night over sushi. “I met Sue and everything changed.” After only five months of dating, the pair eloped to Las Vegas, marrying in a drive-through service performed by an aging, gold-lamé clad Elvis-impersonator.

But after a whirlwind romance that the both described as nothing short of magical, things began to cool down, as they often do.

“In the beginning, we couldn’t get enough of each other,” Sue said. “We were having sex every day, multiple times a day. I have a high sex drive, which has caused problems in past relationships. When a man can’t get on your level, it causes resentment and frustration. John was stimulating in every way: emotionally, mentally and sexually. I was convinced I’d found my match. We got married, and things changed.”

Johnny said that marrying Sue kicked off what turned out to be the best year of his life both personally and professionally. Then things started to go down hill. He lost his job unexpectedly. He and Sue were fighting more and more over little things that seemed not to matter in the months prior. They weren’t having sex nearly as often, and eventually not at all.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Sue said. “I was starting to think I’d made a mistake. He just wasn’t the same person.”

Sue said she would try to express her feelings of loneliness and desire to Johnny, but that he didn’t seem to hear her. “I was missing my best friend, missing the intimacy of our sex life, of feeling connected and desired. But John didn’t seem to hear me. I thought maybe he just didn’t care.”

According to Johnny, the stress of losing his job had screwed up his libido. He didn’t feel like having sex or even getting up in the morning. Sue didn’t seem to understand, and the constant pressure she placed on him to perform made him feel more like a piece of meat than a husband.

After only a year of marriage, the couple decided to seek counseling.

Today, the pair have been together for more than 20 years.

“Counseling helped us to understand the struggles that the other was dealing with,” Johnny said. “We are all inherently selfish. It makes it hard to step outside our own needs and look at what our partner is going through. It was tough to talk about our sex life at first. But I’m glad that we did.”

Sue said counseling helped Johnny to see that she wasn’t feeling connected or valued as a woman, and her to see that he was feeling depressed and overly pressured.

Counseling may not be the solution for every couple. There are issues that run deep, and sometimes, just can’t be worked through. But the only way to know if counseling is right for your marriage is to discuss it. It could be just the life raft you’ve been searching for.

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Keeping Your Head

Keeping Your Head

She did it again. She raged at you. Pissed you off. And you reacted. You blew a gasket. Provided you didn’t hit her or assault her in any way, you can come out of this ok. Keeping your head during a divorce is tough, really tough.

Divorce is emotional, and emotions run wild during the divorce process. But, you can control the emotions and control the process if you can keep your head and your emotions in check. Knowing you’re going to chat with the soon to be Ex and be emotionally charged, there are some things you can do to keep a steady course while navigating the rough seas ahead.

Keeping Your Head

The first rule of keeping your cool: Learn to be here, now.

Ram Dass wrote a great book in the late sixties on the subject, with a basic premise: Be Here. Now. (That’s the title of the book, too).

We tend to live a great deal of our lives out while not really being in the moment. There are many tried and true clichés on the subject, though it boils down to some simple understanding about how we build up stress. Most stress in life really has almost nothing to do with what’s actually happening in the present moment, it has to do with how we apply outdated emotions that worked in the past to a current situation that only looks like something that has happened before. We do this really quickly, too, so it takes a minute to recognize in ourselves that we are not really staying present but responding from past built in automatic responses.

If you are stressed in the moment, look around and decide if there is an actual real threat in front of you (like the house on fire) or if you are just working yourself up over something that isn’t even happening (like an imagined conversation going badly with the ex, before you even picked up the phone).

This is what I mean by “be here, now” – Keeping your head by staying present in the moment when you are feeling stress. If you are focused on a past you can’t change or a future that hasn’t materialized, then you are anywhere but here. Learn to get back quickly.

A rubber band may help.

It might sound sort of silly, but it could be the best silliest thing you do for yourself. Heck, the kids wear bracelets everywhere these days so you could even consider it a fashion statement. Go get yourself a regular rubber band and put it on your wrist. You could even get a Live Strong bracelet or a pretty multi-colored rainbow band, whatever your preference. Just make sure it is strong and that you can snap it when you fiddle with it.

I’m pretty sure you can figure this part out already, but just in case you haven’t caught on yet: When you start getting upset, give your new bracelet a little snap instead. It should sting just enough to remind you that you are alive, in this body, here and now, and help bring you back into the present. Eventually, just feeling it on your wrist, or even glancing at it will have the same effect.

Think of Pavlov’s famous dog. That’s what we’re doing; we’re tricking our minds into associating a sensation with an action. The sensation is secondary to the act of thinking about your behavior in the moment and learning to take a small moment for reflection, which will allow you to make wiser choices. Eventually the simple thought of snapping the rubber band will replace the action of actually doing it, and the effect will be the same. You will no longer be living inside your mind and taking actions based on past experiences or imagined futures, but you will begin making better decisions based upon what is really happening in the moment. Learning to divert our attention when we start to feel anger (in this case, into the rubber band) gives us a better chance to take another tactic when we are feeling emotionally distressed.

In Neurolinguistic programming this is one of the most basic “pattern interrupters” we can create. Neurolinguistic programming (or NLP) is the science of the study of how language affects the central nervous system. NLP is pretty powerful stuff and if you’re not already familiar with its concepts, I certainly recommend looking into it. The idea behind the rubber band is easy; we get influenced by circumstance and shift into auto-drive and stop responding to the actual threat, instead using a predetermined set of reactions to handle it. Simply put: we get stuck and stop paying attention. The little sting interrupts that thought process and gives us a chance to think anew on the current dilemma and respond in a better way.

Finally, let me add that a rubber band, while certainly effective, is not the only way to create this pattern interrupting behavior we are looking for. Aldous Huxley wrote once of parrots on an island trained to say “Here and now, boys”. You could set a timer every ten minutes (or two hours, or twice a day, etc) to chime and remind you to pay attention. You could pay Kato to come over and attack you whenever you return home. You can be creative in your choices on how to resolve the problem of keeping yourself present when you are feeling angry.   \

Next week, we’ll look at more ideas for keeping your cool.

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A Gentleman’s Guide To Attending Your First Public Function Together…But Apart

A Gentleman’s Guide To Attending Your First Public Function Together…But Apart

Congratulations. You made it through your divorce. But at some point, you’re inevitably going to need the “Gentleman’s Guide” to attending your first function together post divorce. Sure, you show up to a function and discover – your Ex. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful. You don’t want to be there with her but then again, your attending this function to see old friends and acquaintances or maybe your own child at one of their functions.

While it’s perfectly normal to feel weird and uncomfortable, you need to suck it up and get through it.  Here are four easy tips to make the process as painless as possible.

The Gentleman’s Guide for the Divorced Man

Stay Classy. Plain and simple: stay classy. What does that mean? Keep it clean, keep it elegant. Look and feel your best, carry yourself in the best way possible.

Classy also means your demeanor. Even if you hate your ex or the person she may have brought along, staying classy means that no one should be able to read your mind based on your body language or the look on your face. Pull one from the politician playbook: you’re walking around shaking hands and kissing babies, being so very gracious. How will you know if you’ve succeeded? When you hear people sincerely say with a bit of amazement in their voice, “Wow, you look really good.”

Be The Bigger Man. Unless you lived in a cave prior to this outing, it’s highly likely that the rest of your social circle are also aware that this is your first venture out in public, together yet apart. It’s also highly likely that they feel tension and are dreading the possible negative outcomes. While some may root for a cat fight, others would rather avoid any and all drama. You have the ability to play to the second group by being the bigger man.

The Gentleman’s Guide would suggest this is a public function and neither of you are the focus of the attention. Any and all tension will be diffused by your taking the initiative, and approaching her with a greeting, a polite hello, a firm handshake to her guest perhaps, and then moving on. Then, wham, it’s over.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded? When you hear people, maybe even her companion, sincerely say with a bit of amazement in their voice, “Wow, he is a really cool guy.”

Stay Distant. Now that you’ve diffused any tension and gotten over the hump of the first greeting, you are going to keep things civil by simply keeping your distance. Find something else to do. Find other people to talk to you. The greetings have been made and that’s enough, this time. Maybe next time you can make small talk, but for now just leave well enough alone. Maintain a healthy distance. Don’t spend the duration rubbernecking to find out exactly where she is, simply trust your instincts. You were married to her, you can sense her whereabouts. Stay out of her force field and carry on as your usual, wonderful self. Keep in mind the reason you came to this function in the first place and make that your focus.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded? When you hear people sincerely say, “I’m so glad you came, I know this had to be awkward. Thank you for making the effort.”  Then, you’ll know the Gentleman’s Guide was right.

Stay Sober. This is easily the most important of all four points from the Gentleman’s Guide. Even if you ignore the other three final boarding calls, you will miss your flight entirely if you disregard this advice. A drink might very well help your nerves…but anything beyond that will not. Instead, it will demolish all of the other stuff we’ve talked about: instead of keeping it classy, you will be the drunk hot mess stumbling around with his clothes disheveled, spilling on yourself and quite likely on someone else; instead of being the bigger man and making a good impression, you will overstay, overplay and overspeak; instead of staying distant, you will hover, invade her space with either your person or your comments. You will decide that you have very important, very personal things to say and you will tell them to everyone who will listen and you will repeat them at greater volumes to those who won’t.

Just stay sober. This is the only time you will ever have to handle your first public function apart; do it like the  Gentleman’s Guide suggests and all future functions will be that much more enjoyable.

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Divorce: For All The Right Reasons

Divorce: For All The Right Reasons

Well, it’s that time of year when we all celebrate the coming of a new year and new opportunities. It’s also the time of year where we reflect on the past, and think about what has gone well, and what has not. And, then the dreaded thoughts start – Why can’t I have a partner who cares about me? And, if I divorce, will I divorce for all the right reasons.

These thoughts may lead to disenchantment with the marriage they forged with their partner many years ago. And, if the thought process continues unabated, thoughts of real divorce are not far behind. The thoughts of ending a marriage are devastating, for both parties. No one escapes the tragedy of divorce once the process starts.

Ending a marriage is one of the most devastating emotional hits a person takes in life. Truthfully, I think it’s worse than death. Death is a natural part of life and marriage; we make a vow to love each other ‘until death do us part’. Happily married couples will avoid even thinking about it except to draw up wills or buy life insurance. Divorce, on the other hand, isn’t natural. What person, genuinely in love, marries another human being with expectations of anything other than building a long and happy life together?

Down in the southern Bible Belt where I was raised, the bedrock belief that marriage is a sacred, forever thing was strongly instilled. D-i-v-o-r-c-e was not even spoken above a shameful whisper. If there were problems between a husband and wife, the solution was that you did whatever was necessary, working together to work it out. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that with the majority of relationships this kind of ‘stick with it’ approach still works. I’ve known couples who value their marriage and buckle down to do whatever needs to be done to restore the happy state of the union. Sometimes in today’s fast and disposable lifestyle it can just seems easier to toss out things that are less than perfect. I’ve seen love thrown away like this and it’s always sad, especially when children are involved. And then there are times when no amount of effort or determination can fix things.

So when do you divorce for all the right reasons?

As an immature 19 year-old, I and my infant son endured horrific abuse at the hands of my first husband. Why did I stay as long as I did? Because I was brought up to believe that a divorce was a straight ticket to hell and damnation. I was afraid I wasn’t up to the responsibility of raising myself and a child. I literally believed him when he said no man would ever want me again. And no one believed me when I tried to tell them what was going on. Not even the police.

Later I married again, this time to a man who, on the surface, appeared to be genuine, loving and kind. It took seven years to uncover that his sole motivation for the courtship and marriage was to gain for himself a manly, ‘good old boy’ veneer in order to survive and prosper in the homophobic atmosphere that was Texas in the last century. He wasn’t gay but transgendered. By marrying me and adopting my son, he could hide and protect his secret. No, he didn’t beat me but the scars he inflicted were just as deep and real.

I may be a woman but we certainly don’t own exclusive rights to victimhood. Statics are revealing a marked increase in the number of reported domestic violence cases against men. Women are finally achieving notorious equality as the perpetrators they’ve always been capable of being.

Male or female, physical, emotional and sexual abuse are the top reasons to run – not walk – away. These are issues that lead to divorce for all the right reasons. It may sound logical and obvious but where the heart is involved, it becomes incredibly easy to ignore wisdom and reason ourselves right into denial. You tell yourself that there’s no way that this person with whom you have shared so much would actually, intentionally hurt you in any way, shape, form or fashion. As a former crime reporter, I can tell you I heard this a lot. Unfortunately in many cases it was too late to hear it first hand.

When in doubt, walk out, and divorce for all the right reasons..

HelpGuide.Org is a non-profit resource guide.

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When You’re Home For The Holidays

When You’re Home For The Holidays

Ahhh, the Holidays. That glorious time of year that we get to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years with our loved ones. Or do we? That’s certainly questionable if you’re home for the holidays and having to negotiate with your Ex as to whether or not you’ll see the kids. It’s certainly reasonable that the kids will regard the custodial home as “their home”. That home is more typically with Mom as opposed to with Dad as the Family Court system has traditionally not been kind or understanding to Dads during the divorce process.

Regardless of who is the custodial parent, we must always understand that it’s not our needs that need to be addressed, but the needs and wants of our children.  Kids clearly have the holidays off from school, and they have family and friends that they want to share time with. Dads Want to be and need to be factored into the schedule, but when? Negotiations with the kids and with the Ex are in order if you want to have a reasonable opportunity to share valuable time with your kids.

Some divorced families stick to rigid scheduling around holidays that have either been agreed to previously, or are perhaps court ordered in a support stipulation agreement. While it can certainly ease tensions to have clearly defined dates set far ahead of time, I also believe it is valuable to think about having flexibility.

After our separation, the mother of my daughter and I actually did have a fairly complete support agreement to rely on when issues arose and used that as the final say, though in most circumstances we simply communicated effectively about what our needs were, what our child’s desires were, and sought to find resolutions among our choices that would best benefit our kid.

I recommend having at least one holiday a year that is “yours” and one holiday a year that is “hers” and work to keep those traditions in line as much as possible. I would also suggest that these holidays are not the big ones like Christmas and Easter (or Hanukkah and Pesach if you’re a Jewish family). Making permanent schedules for minor holidays can help to ease the tensions surrounding the major ones, and also ensures you will have the opportunity to have at least one special time of year with your kids, where you can instill traditions, knowledge and that cherished feeling of family togetherness.

Home for the Holidays This Year 

For example, Thanksgiving has always been a pretty big deal for mom’s side of the family. My daughter’s mother has a fairly large extended family with three great aunts and many cousins. One of the great aunts had made it a tradition, years before my daughter was born, that she would visit the rest of the family every Thanksgiving. Now, by turn, while my family isn’t really small, we also have not ever really had long standing Thanksgiving traditions. Of course I would love for my daughter to spend that holiday with me, however, in this situation, while I could easily have argued for my rights within the stipulation agreement, where it outlines we trade holidays yearly, the only real point in doing so would be to disrupt her family’s traditions and assert my own egotistical needs. Instead, when we first looked at holiday times, we decided since Thanksgiving was an important one for her family, mom would always have our daughter for Thanksgiving, and I would always have my daughter for Halloween (which happens to be one of my favorite holidays). From the time my daughter was old enough to trick or treat, until the year she graduated high school, we have had almost every Halloween together, and over that time we also established life long friend for her that joined us in our celebrations. Equally over that time, my daughter has enjoyed the richness of her mother’s traditions concerning Thanksgiving and will hopefully want to continue those into her adult life. Personally, I really look forward to a Halloween evening out with my adult daughter some year.

Over the course of my daughter’s life, there have certainly been one or two times when this has changed for various reasons (one year the great aunt was sick, and my sister in Texas asked if we could join them, so we switched it around that year), though for the most part, those holidays have become the least stressful of our planning year. My daughter came to expect Thanksgiving with mom and Halloween with dad, which also created ease for her.

Concerning the major winter and spring holiday breaks for schoolchildren, I would recommend a flexible approach that places emphasis on raising the children with the influence of both families over time. An “every other year” policy seems to be the best, at least from what I have seen.

Again, it is important to listen to your kids. Ask what they want concerning when they’ll be home for the holidays (once they are old enough to reason, of course) and do your best to accommodate.

Bottom line: When you’re going to be home for the holidays, work to plan far in advance with your ex. If you know that next spring break your side of the family is planning a reunion, don’t wait until three weeks from break to start asking your ex and your child how they feel about the vacation. Start negotiating as soon as you know.

My ex and I were pretty good at this, and we often had our daughter’s summer schedule worked out by late winter, which made long term planning much easier on us both, and gave our daughter the comfort and security of knowing where and when she would be while on school breaks far enough in advance to also make plans with other kids where she would be travelling (or staying at home).

Next time we’ll talk about handling scheduling conflicts towards fair resolution.

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